Saturday 20 December 2014

Merging credit unions 'have support of members'

Charlie Weston Personal Finance Editor

Published 27/03/2014 | 02:30

THE heads of two large credit unions planning to merge have insisted the majority of members are in favour of the tie-up.

Members of both Coolock-Artane and Swords credit unions are set to vote on the merger proposals next week, after they demanded a say in the link-up.

If it goes ahead, the combination of the two North Dublin lenders will create one of the largest credit unions in the country.

Another 90 credit unions are in talks with a state body about linking up. If all of these were to merge it would reduce the number of individual credit unions by around 45.

The credit unions in Swords and Coolock-Artane have been involved in merger talks for months. But the tie-up has been stalled after members of Coolock-Artane passed a resolution at the annual general meeting before Christmas de- manding that the board seek member approval before any link-up is formalised.

This forced the two credit unions to run a series of information meetings for members and to publish leaflets to set out what was proposed.

Under legislation, the board of a credit union can push through a merger with another credit union without seeking approval from the members if the Central Bank approves of the combination.

Members of the two credit unions will get a chance to air their views on the merger at separate meetings.

If it comes off, the tie-up between Coolock-Artane and Swords and District credit unions will be the biggest merger so far, and see the creation of a group with assets of €148m and 44,000 members. The new body would be called Member First Credit Union.

Yesterday the chairmen of the credit unions insisted there was broad support for a tie-up. Coolock-Artane chairman John Matthews said combining the two credit unions would secure the finances of both and maintain their ability to pay a strong dividend, to keep loan interest as low as possible and to deliver a range of new services.

And chairman of Swords and District CU Joan Barker said: "It's the members who will decide whether this happens. This initiative is all about securing the future of members and ensuring that their children enjoy the same benefits in years to come."

The State has set up the Credit Union Restructuring Board (ReBo) to manage the merger.

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